It is understandable that people often consider me to be an expert on cars, to know my con rod from my diff’ for example. It is often a surprise when I admit to knowing probably no more than the average bloke
Younger years were spent tearing around on two wheels, but due to naval service, I did not pass my driving test until I was 26, a lifetime ago. Twenty odd years in logistics where at times I was responsible for thousands of daily deliveries via the use of vans, trucks and trailers meant that I had a great understanding of this complex art, but the vehicles were just tools of the trade. Drivers used to wax lyrical about the power of their rigs, the ease of gear shifting and the wonders of power steering, but I left them to it, though I did share their enthusiasm for delivering whilst driving a truck as most other vehicles gave us a wide berth
So whilst I normally write about subjects about which I have intimate knowledge; here the comfort zone is miles away, so any real experts should start their cringing now as I try and give answers to some of the technical questions that are asked of me
Since the advent of the motor car in the 19th century, they have developed at a remarkable pace with diversification into specialist vehicles. The majority of us drive family cars with 4 doors and an engine size between 1600 and 2000 cc, but other vehicles are used for fun, rough terrain or posing. Only last week, someone mentioned that a regular service on a McLaren F1 costs €35000 which is more than most of us would spend on a car. A customer is awaiting delivery of second hand lights for his Bentley at €1800 for the pair; a different world to mine
The choice of car is predominantly made from a financial perspective; yeah a top of the range Merc’ or Jaguar is the dream of many, but we settle for a Mondeo as it is a trusted tool and within our price range. The girls have to like the colour and to find parking easy. Fuel consumption is important as this again affects our finances. Reliability, safety record, feel when driving, gismos and extras may also play a part as does brand loyalty. Some people won’t touch a Japanese car or Vauxhall because of some odd prejudice or bad experience. Petrol engines are chosen by aficionados but diesel by those considering reliability
Fuel consumption varies from model to model so comparisons are easy, but I cannot get used to kilometres per litre so have to get the calculator out to convert to miles per gallon. The green revolution means that the poisonous emissions from cars are being reduced, notably the CO2 level, with purchase and road taxes biased towards lower levels. For most purposes, the CO2 level is expressed as grams per kilometre (g/km) which is shown on registration documents and very recently on all ITV cards. The number assigned, such as 167 g/Km, is the weight of carbon dioxide spewed out for each kilometre that you drive
Mind your big end
Common phrases such as wheel base are airily discussed by the petrol heads; persons defined by their love of torque, BHP, injector types, big ends, con rods, traction control, etc.
Wheel base is the measurement between the front and rear axles, so the larger the measurement the longer the car. The Smart car has a very short wheelbase meaning that it can be parked virtually anywhere as it also has a tight turning circle. Turning circle? Hold the steering wheel hard over and drive around in a circle; for a Smart car this is known as turning on a sixpence. Contrarily stretch limos have a very long wheel base and wide turning circle so are fine on motorways, but not much cop in rough terrain and a bugger to park.
Track width is a similar measure from the middle of the tyre tread to the other tyre on the same axle. Torque is the power required to make a part, such as a wheel, turn. There will be a completely different torque required when driving up a hillside to that required at speed on a motorway. BHP is the modern term for horse power, the B meaning brake. In simple terms it is the amount of stallions required to drag your car along; in Spain this is often referred to in Kilowatts whereby 1.36 BHP is 1 Kw. BHP is the power output of the engine and this is tailored depending upon the normal activity of the vehicle through gears to provide various torques
As for big ends, these are the joints or bearings on a connecting rod (con rod) which attaches the piston to the crankshaft in the engine. Little ends attach the con rod to the piston itself. Injectors spray the fuel into the cylinders as opposed to naturally aspirated engines which have a carburettor. Pistons are those things that go up and down in the cylinder; the bigger the cylinder the more power is produced but more fuel is needed to do so. Traction control is to do with gripping onto the road
With the amount of sexual imagery that this conjures up, you can see why it is men with their well known fixations that are into cars. Note that men never talk about little ends as this offends their male pride.
A little knowledge is dangerous so any petrol head would screw me with his drive shaft (connects the gearbox to the wheel) so I will leave any further discussions to them; meanwhile I’m off to watch the Formula1 on the telly; fast cars, lousy driving position, loads of torque, tons of CO2 emissions, wide turning circle, long wheel base, appalling fuel consumption, get though more tyres per race than normal cars do in years. Totally un-PC. Bring it on!